In the Garden

Rick Barboza



Latin name: Psydrax odorata

A lahe'e means "slippery" or "wandering fragrance." The name might stem from the experiences of hikers through the mountains who detect its fragrance long before the flower is seen.

Description: Alahe'e are generally small trees or bushy shrubs, however, they may reach a height of more than 30 feet. Their leaves are extremely glossy and attractive. When in bloom, beautiful white flower clusters form above the lateral branches and release a pleasant fragrance. When the plant is young and actively growing (which is usually very slow), its shape is somewhat radially symmetric, similar to that of a Christmas tree. During the holidays, friends and I have used large potted alahe'e in place of aChristmas tree because it does fine indoors and will definitely outlive any store-bought, cut tree

Distribution: This plant is indigenous, native to Hawaii as well as other parts of the world, specifically the South Pacific. Here, it is generally found in coastal or dryland habitats, and sometimes found in wet forests on all the main islands except for Niihau and Kahoolawe.

Cultural uses: The wood of this plan is very hard and strong. It's used for making spears, o'o (digging sticks) and even adz blades for cutting softer wood such as wiliwili. A black dye is also produced from the burnt leaves of this plant.

Landscape use and care: The beauty and durability of alahe'e make it highly desirable to both native and non-native plant collectors.

Few pests are known to bother this plant. However, watch out for ants, which may bring mealy bugs and scales with them. Let the ground dry between waterings.

Rick Barboza co-owns Hui Ku Maoli Ola, a Native Hawaiian plant nursery, with Matt Schirman. Contact him at 259-6580 or e-mail

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